To take a well earned winter break or not? 

The mantra that we hear and say to ourselves when we fall into a fitness rut. This time of year can really put us off doing what we usually do in warmer weather. If you are a cyclist, you might want to leave the bike in the shed, or hang up your running shoes until the sun shines above 15 degrees.

The clichéd saying is true though. If you don't use it, simply, you will use it, because your fitness levels will drop, as will your muscle tone.

Winter training. Move it or lose it?

What can happen? 

There are many reasons we could want to take a break. You could just be in hibernation mode, you could be a fair-weather fitness fanatic, or you could have health reasons. There are many important factors to consider when it comes to fitness, from muscle strength to endurance.

If you suddenly stop, you won’t lose it it all at once because the rate of loss occurs at different speeds.

Training through the winter

When does it happen?

After a week or so, the amount of blood can reduce by around 5-12%, meaning your heart will have to work slightly harder than it would have previously, if you were to start working out again. Metabolically speaking, your muscles will have started to become less efficient too. You wouldn't be able to run as long as you used to because you would feel the lactic burn sooner. A lot of people do take a week or two off at the end of the season. This is normal and nothing to feel guilty about, because it really wont effect your too much.

After a month your muscles will have started to return to their pre-trained state. You will still maintain a level of fitness (unlike those who never trained), but your state is still changing, and at a fairly quick rate.

Your fat burning capacity will be less efficient too because of inactivity, meaning your muscles don't burn it like they used too. Your heart will be less muscular, with the thickness of the muscle walls having reduced by up to 25%.

All of this will, no doubt, result in weight gain because you are burning fewer calories, but probably consuming the same.

Known as “de-training”, we are pretty sure these are undesirable effects and you really don't want to have to re-train. You would have to build your cardiovascular activity back up, as well as your metabolic rate.Muscle fibres will have shrunk, meaning strength lost, and again you would have to work hard to regain this.

In short, the best option is to maintain your training over winter. By all means take a few days or a week off, but perhaps look at it as maintenance rather than winter training. To maintain what you have will make springing back a lot easier than completely starting from scratch.

Try HIIT training as a short and quick workout. A burst of High Intensity Interval Training can take as little as 12 minutes a week (8x30 second bursts, 2 or 3 times a week) will be a great boost to your aerobic fitness.